Friday, January 11, 2008

Junior Frolics and Associates Part 7 of 8

What else did we see? Charles Dickens' 'Oliver Twist' [1948] with Obi Wan Kenobi the younger [Alec Guinness,] and Robert Newton was the epitome of Long John Silver in 'Treasure Island' [1950.] I liked Newton better than Noah Beery as the peg-legged pirate. The 'Thief of Baghdad' [1940] with Sabu and Tim Whelan---I could have watched that movie once a day for years. Sabu with his flying carpet inspired me to write an Arabian short story years later [currently shelved due to political considerations.] The mysterious and strange 'Scarlet Pimpernel' [1935] of Leslie Howard was a Sunday afternoon treat. The 'Adventures of Robin Hood' [1938] in all its black and white glory allowed the straight shooting Errol Flynn to save Olivia de Havilland. Another presentation was 'Captain Blood' [1935,] a rousing sea adventure again showing Errol Flynn as Peter Blood ['…Colonel Darling! ...'] yet again winning the hand of Olivia de Havilland. Those two stars made eight movies together.

And who could skip 'King Kong' [1933] and the jungle adventure on Skull Island with Faye Wray, Robert Armstrong, and the ingénue, Mr. Kong. Or 'Frankenstein' [1931] with Colin Clive, Mae Clark, and the unbilled Boris Karloff. This film was scary in black and white, and imbedded in my young mind the scariness of dark, mountaintop, castle laboratories. I've always avoided such places---not that I was ever invited to one. I wonder how scary the movie would have been in color. Frankenstein's monster was really green.

The dark and eerie images of Bela Lugosi's 'Dracula' [1931] stayed with me for a long time---in scary black and white. '…I vant to bite your neck…'---perhaps not a direct quote, but in Lugosi's accent, it would have been a scary phrase. I was very happy to have Zacherley cut the horror a bit with his comedy. Thank you, John. I hope your wife's brain hasn't been served with onion dip.

Dracula and Frankenstein, partnered with the compelling life of Larry Talbot seen in the 'Wolf Man' [1941---year of the wolf bane,] to make the Big Three horror movies of my youth. I watched them numerous times; black and white, nothing graphic (spurring imagination was the key,) no gore, but pure Gothic terror at times for a young boy of the fifties.

When Dad spent the evening donating carpentry service to the Church? Why that was a good time for Happy Felton and the Dodger game, again with me on the floor in front of the TV with my Hershey ice cream or blue cheese and crackers---slowly disappearing into the setting son.

Happy Felton, a rotund fellow who looked rather silly in a Dodger uniform, had a pre-game show just before the Dodger games. Down the right field line, the guest Dodger player would usually throw or fungo hit a ball for the kid contestants to catch against the right field bullpen wall. The player then chose the best of three to win the contest. The kid generally won some memorabilia, baseball equipment, or both.

Happy also had a regular Saturday show, 'Happy Felton's Knothole Gang,' with guest players from the New York teams teaching kids baseball basics. The kids were taught in Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, and Yankee Stadium. It ran from 1950 to 1957. I guess it ended, in part, because the Dodgers and Giants moved from New York City to the West Coast leaving two-thirds of his ballparks empty.

Friday was grocery-shopping night for our family. We went with Mom and Dad when I was very young, but I could tell that Dad didn't enjoy the trip. He treated it as a responsibility and not as an enjoyable experience. I wasn't much older when the trip turned to an us and Mom-only expedition. Sometimes I went, but I was more likely to stay at home watching educational western TV or the Dodgers. So, most of the time, Mom went alone---well, not entirely. I guess little Mary Anne went with her.

And when she returned, I'd help unload the car. After which, I'd spend a few minutes looking through the bags to see what Mom had bought---not putting things away, mind you, but checking things out. Cookies, candies, and crackers were usually opened before the rest of the bags were empty. Oreos, Hydrox, Peanut Butter Creams, and chocolate chips were the cookies of choice. We also enjoyed Premium Saltine Crackers with almost anything. I had wheat crackers for my blue cheese.

Our grocery shopping was done at the A & P in downtown Middletown, near the phone company. It's not that we had a lot of choices. Other than the Grand Union on Orchard Street across from the library, there wasn't anyplace else of size to shop. There was the local Markovitz at the other end of town, and several other smaller groceries around, including Shoemaker's down our street at Larkin's corner [where I voted every year for Miss Rheingold.] But their prices were higher [though phenomenally cheap by today's standards], and they had limited selections. We only used the latter when we needed a few things and couldn't go to the A & P. When I was young, the stores were relatively small. No one even imagined a super-store. In the A & P, which was miniscule compared to the current stores, there were narrow aisles, stuffed shelves, the aroma of ground Eight O'clock Coffee pervading the air, a basic selection of fresh produce [in smaller quarters, the aromas are stronger,] and a bin of empty product boxes near the front. The A & P even had its own house brand of beer, though I don't know anyone who dared taste it. Noise and conversation abounded while our groceries were packed in paper bags or the binned boxes as we chose. Big, black cash registers were used and filled the air with even more noise. Ka-chink. Ka-chink.

When I'd be with Mom shopping, I'd push the cart with my attention directed around me to see who else was there. Thus, I often ran over Mom's poor heels in front of me. She'd have something to say about it, but I'd be likely to do it again. Maybe that's part of the reason she didn't mind my staying home and leaving the grocery shopping to her and Mary Anne.

Most stores were open to 9 pm on Friday nights. The rest of the week saw 6 pm closings, and everybody was closed on Sundays. This schedule was pretty standard, and I remember working at Green's Department Store from 1964-66 when we'd be open only on Friday nights. Of course the Christmas season was different. The stores remained open later each night as a matter of course–but still only until nine.

Except for the Yankees, 'Perry Mason,' and an occasional movie we hadn't seen before, Mom and Dad didn't watch television all that much. Dad occasionally watched Wednesday night or Friday night boxing when there was nothing else to engage his interest or Sugar Ray Robinson was on the card. Dad was an adherent of the concept that Sugar Ray was, 'pound for pound' the best boxer around. [Though that concept, literally, doesn't make much sense.] If we were all in the living room, we'd be watching television, and Dad and Mom would be reading---a habit I picked up. I can read anything light while the TV is on. Anything heavy or more intellectual will require silence. So the TV goes off.

I toiled on my homework upstairs in my room or downstairs at the kitchen table while Mom washed the dishes. I liked to have her immediately available to answer a question or deny having the knowledge. Any questions mathematical or physical were normally saved for Dad. I'd open the learning season by choosing new supplies such as a protractor, compass, pencils, pens, rulers---though they'd go missing when the next summer came around.

I used all those supplies, and usually brought some home each night in a book bag. Nobody used knapsacks, and we didn't have lockers. We could leave some books and notes in our desks, which had flip-tops, since for the most part we didn't change desks or classrooms. In high school it wasn't cool to use the book bags anymore. We could use small gym bags or use a rubber strap around the loose books, or just carry the books themselves. We still didn't have any lockers in high school either, but at that point we didn't care. The books used were simply too heavy to cart home unless we needed them for homework. The only desk storage space was underneath the seat. But, really, who would have stolen a Latin or Algebra textbook?

As with any youth, my homework was sometimes sketchy or forgotten. Amid the laughing and yelling on the high school bus, we'd compare our night's work, I'd share my work, or I'd copy from someone else's efforts if I agreed with him. I 'borrowed' from Jack Mills enough to have him comment about it in my yearbook. I was no slouch in criticizing his work either, but still---better a wrong something than nothing at all. There were many other pens and pencils working on the bus ride, so I wasn't alone in 'borrowing' homework. And as necessary, I lent my Latin efforts to others, even Jack. Fair is fair! Besides, nobody but Madeleine could translate Latin with any competence, and she wouldn't participate in our fair and balanced swapping. Usually, most of the rest of us were all off base. My efforts usually had numerous blank spaces for missing words or phrases. Opera publicus, Sister Chabonel!

Surprisingly, we didn't talk much about the previous night's TV fare, unless it was important for some reason: major cold war news, changes to the hierarchy in the USSR, the newest rock and roll songs, new model cars, major league baseball games or trades, or local news of note, or the latest romantic pairings. But mostly we had our own concerns.

I know. I know. I'm off the TV track and on the bus track to school. But, everything just flows, rather like responding to an essay question for which I actually know the answer. So, I let my mind wander wherever it wants to go---stream of consciousness as it were.

Back in the fifties, we could actually tell the difference between cars and the models of each make, as well as their years of manufacture. The models changed quite a bit each year, and kept us memorizing. Seeing them in a sunny situation was sometimes awe-inspiring. Man and machine. These days, you can't tell one model from another or one nameplate from another, and the cars are decidedly not awesome. Cookie-cutter cars, as it were---with the exception of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, which look like each other. And they both look like the Bentley. And I like all three, though I'd still rather have a jaguar. We didn't really track the changes in annual television set models---though I must say again that the Sylvania halo television appealed to my tender years.

I wasn't the type who could study amid loud rock and roll, or loud anything for that matter. In high school and college my study habits were rather quiet. I made my noise in social situations. We maintained a quiet home at 126 Cottage, except when Mom and Dad were yelling at each other.

Not noisy at home? I can still laugh about the time Mom caught me in my room singing 'Mack the Knife,' with Bobby Darin's versions on the radio and the record player all bellowing or blasting at the same time--- well…I wasn't studying, that's for sure. Mom opened the door and scared the hell out of me. Couldn't she have waited until the song was over?


Susan Ramey Cleveland said...

Hi. I just found your blog while surfing. I love all the 50s nostalgia. I grew up during that time. I was just wondering about th emeaning of your blog name "Notes for Ramey." My maiden name is Ramey.

McCoy said...

Thanks. The name occurred in a dream. Who knows what the reasons were? Thanks for the comment